Rainwater Harvesting: Is Collecting Rainwater At Home Illegal in Singapore?

rainwater harvesting

It’s been raining cats and dogs of late. So you might be thinking of collecting/harvesting rainwater to water your plants or for washing your toilet.

After all, why pay for litres of treated water, when you can collect rainwater for free?

But before you go around placing barrels around or installing a rainwater harvesting system, do you know that you can get taxed by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for collecting too much rainwater?


Why PUB will tax you for harvesting rainwater

Just to be clear: PUB isn’t going to penalise you for collecting small amounts of rainwater. In fact, you’ll only be taxed with a waterborne fee (WBF) if the collected water exceeds 20m3, which is equivalent to 20,000 litres, and if you dispose of the water into the sewers. 

According to a text reply from PUB to Facebook user Brandon Chong, this is due to the cost of treating discharged water in sewers. 

rainwater harvesting text


In other words, unless you’re planning to harvest 20,000 litres of rainwater, it’s unlikely to attract any attention from the authorities (but make sure it isn’t breeding mosquitoes) — this rule is more likely to affect the industrial and commercial sectors. 


But what if I want to build a rainwater harvesting system? Is that allowed?

Yes, but it comes with guidelines and regulations.

Apart from not exceeding the 20m3 limit mentioned earlier, you must also meet the conditions stipulated by PUB, namely:

  1. For starters, the harvested water is strictly only for non-potable uses (general washing, toilet flushing and landscape irrigation); you can’t use it for drinking, washing your face, showering or brushing your teeth. 
  2. The discharged water must also be disposed into the sewers and not into any storm drains or land as it might cause water and land pollution. 
  3. The equipment and fittings installed must comply with PUB’s standards and regulations.
  4. The rainwater collection tank must be mosquito-proofed in accordance with NEA’s guidelines. This is to prevent mosquito breeding.


Note: Using non-harvested water for landscape irrigation is illegal

As you may know, water is a precious resource in Singapore. 

To prevent wastage of treated water, the Public Utilities (Water Supply) Regulations state that homeowners that use sprinklers for irrigation must source it from harvested water (i.e. rainwater, ponds) by connecting the sprinklers to a rainwater harvesting system. Tapping on PUB water is against the rules.

If you fail to comply with the rules, you could face a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both. 

Since installing a rainwater harvesting tank is expensive and requires a lot of space, this is likely to only those who live in landed properties, or more specifically, good class bungalow (GCB) homeowners. 


Water is precious in Singapore, so let’s do our part to save water

According to a report by The Straits Times in 2016, Singapore residents use about 150 litres of water each day, which is much more than cities with similar standards of living. In Tallinn, Estonia’s capital and Europe’s most water-saving city, for example, its residents only use 95 litres of water daily. 

Over the years, PUB has launched several campaigns to raise awareness on the importance of conserving water. 

While most complain about the water price increase in 2017 and 2018, the price hikes have helped to reduce the daily water consumption from 148 litres per day in 2016 to 143 litres in 2018.

Remember, Singapore has limited water resources, which are becoming increasingly vulnerable because of climate change. While the Singapore government has been lauded for its efforts to diversify its water sources, we can still all do our part to reduce water wastage.


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